Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Get It Through Your Thick Head

Fighting words, I know. Pejorative on so many levels. Insulting even, but that’s what we’ve come to. After reading great posts by Joel Kotkin, Wendell Cox, and some miscellaneous pieces in the WSJ, that support what I’ve been saying for the last few years about regulations and “Feeling Better About Ourselves” (FBAO) ordinances I have come to the sad conclusion we in California are doomed. Doomed like Illinois, Michigan and many other states.

But California is the worst offender because it is so correctable and obvious. It is the simple fact that state is controlled by those who wish to give away what others have earned. And when that runs out you end up with a Michigan and Detroit or an Illinois and Chicago. Sad but true, but FBAO.

California, when I emigrated back in 1971 from Illinois and Michigan, was the place to be. It was the greatest and coolest spot on earth with an endless coastline, bustling cities that were affordable, a sane politic, and an adventurous soul and an expectant population for its future.

What happened? FBAO.

There is no easy answer and yet I will try to give a small opinion, my own. One word comes to mind, self-satisfied. We no longer reach for the stars whether Hollywood or Vandenberg, we have become a creator of toys (IPads, Google, Facebook). We no longer dig in the soil for wealth (gold, silver, cotton, oil, and even lumber), we let George, or Juan, or Chin do it. We became a state of renters and preservers, even though our history is less than two centuries old. We became self-centered as well, FBAO. Sad.

The state is now striven in two. A coastal state that is no more than fifty miles wide, a coastal zone unaffordable to all but the richest and oldest (equity my dear, equity). A zone that does its best to restrict, shun, prevent, and obscure every attempt to grow and deal with changes to its population and economy. “Let Silicon Valley do it,” seems to be the most common hope. Even the Southland dreams of redemption in its own version called Silicon Beach. We are now just cute, not cutting edge.

And most of this is due to over-regulation and protectionism. In 1970 there wasn’t a Coastal Commission, Water Quality Control Board, Bay Conservation and Development Commission, Air Resources Board, affordable housing laws and agencies, waste management agencies, Environmental Impact Reports, and so many other agencies they bump into each other like teenagers at a Rave. And somehow we managed to built a great state. While the ordinances have done some good and in many cases a lot of good, they have also slowed the engine of the state to a dead stop crawl. When there are no expectations, no hope, entrepreneurs move on taking jobs and capital with them. I see Texas waving its flag on the horizon.

What is left is chaos. Drug labs hidden in derelict valley towns and dying orchards, an empty landscape where hundreds of thousands of acres of crops once grew, battles over how much water someone gets versus building greater and greater water supplies, a sad pleasure in returning to the native, and the belief that denser and denser urbanization is the future. FBAO.

We are squandering our resources and capital. Witness the battles over city and county land use boundaries that drive up housing costs, a high speed rail that will fly through counties desperate for jobs and growth, fracking that will produce thousands of jobs and billions for the state, new land laws (by coastal legislators) making Central Valley growth more costly and difficult, and the ongoing subsidies for coastal housing that tries to create affordable housing instead of expanding the overall housing count and thus making housing more expensive and unaffordable, and of course the omnipotent power of the public unions as we have seen in the BART strike. Much of this driven by entrenched political and cultural groups with specific agendas and a relentless and tightening grip on the state’s purse.

It is very hard to accept that at some point this state will run out of credit, it can’t print money (though it does try, by proxy, to sell bonds for its future), and it can only expand taxes on its people and businesses for so long. It will begin to lose those people it needs to retain. California will still grow but is it the type of growth that this state needs? I believe in demographics, but what kind of demographics is important. Education is paramount, so is affordable housing, and so are jobs. California desperately needs adult supervision, even though, I guess, the adults along Coastal California seem to like it the way it is and they of course FBAO.

Stay tuned . . . . . . . . .

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